First off, I am very Pro-Life, as I believe in the sanctity of life from the moment of conception to natural death – fundamental Catholic teaching. However, implementing this does not lend itself to a simple, “one size fits all” approach, as there are several aspects to consider. I will talk about three categories of them in this blog.
- Ones fundamental stance on abortion, AKA personal view/choice
- The government’s role at each level (Federal, state, and local)
- Special situations/considerations in abortion legislation (e.g., mother’s risk of dying while giving birth, incest, rape, etc.)
Having considered all of these facets, I believe SCOTUS made the right decision in handing the decision authority over to the states. Despite what we might hear/read in the news, this is really all they did, as the states now have full reign over their own abortion laws. I also believe that deciding on abortion matters is best handled at the state level.
Personally, and regardless of state and local abortion laws, I will always encourage women to proceed with having their babies versus aborting them, so long as so doing doesn’t pose undue risk to the mother’s life. If it does, then I believe it should be up to her and God. If it doesn’t, then I believe adoption would be a great alternative if the mother is unwilling and/or unable to properly care for and raise her child.
Now, we’ll unpeel this seemingly simple yet quite complex onion in each of the areas outlined above.
My Stance On Abortion
My belief that life begins at conception (not birth) is based on both science and religion. Let’s start with the science.
As we know, conception is when the mother’s egg is fertilized by the father’s sperm and becomes a zygote, which is the first stage in the formation of a new human being. This is moment that the resultant person has acquired his/her unique DNA signature. From there, a delicate sequence of events occurs in stages that develops this zygote into what becomes a “baby” when he/she is born. The medical/scientific community has broken down the prenatal (pre-birth) development into various stages. They are often called “Germinal”, “Embryonic”, and “Fetal” or “Morula”, “Blastula”, “Gastrula”, and “Organogenesis”. Wikipedia has a rather good description of the process (wikipedia – Fetal Development).
There are three (3) main stages that capture the many substages of this process:
- First Trimester – 0-13 weeks after conception: The most dramatic changes and development happen during the first trimester. During the first eight weeks, a fetus is called an embryo. The embryo develops rapidly and by the end of the first trimester, it is fully formed, weighing approximately 0.5 to 1 ounce and measuring, on average, 3 to 4 inches in length. The external genital organs are developed. Fingernails and toenails appear. Eyelids are formed. Fetal movement begins and increases. The arms and legs are fully formed. (Reference Johns Hopkins Medicine First Trimester)
- Second Trimester – 14-26 weeks after conception: Now that all the major organs and systems have formed in the fetus, the following six months will be spent growing. The weight of the fetus will multiply more than seven times over the next few months, as the fetus becomes a baby that can survive outside of the uterus. (Reference Johns Hopkins Medicine Second Trimester)
- Third Trimester – 27-40 weeks after conception: During the third trimester, the fetus continues to grow in size and weight, while the lungs mature. By the end of the third trimester, the fetus is about 19 to 21 inches long and weighs, on average, 6 to 9 pounds. During this trimester, the baby will start to see and hear and develop the ability to cry and suck its thumb. (Reference John Hopkins Medicine Third Trimester)
Without getting too bogged down in the details, there is one overarching aspect that is very clear: The entire aforementioned sequence happens automatically, and it is initiated by a single event – conception. It might be somewhat unclear from a semantic standpoint exactly when along this timeline does the zygote/embryo/fetus development meet the definition of “new life”, as such is very difficult to describe in words and the threshold for “new life” could only be somewhat arbitrary at best. However, although I cannot describe this miracle of created human life in words, I certainly know it when I see it! To that point, it is clear that all the parts of this new person are in place by the end of the first trimester, and again the single trigger is the egg being fertilized by the sperm (conception). Hence, I rest my case that conception is the starting point of this new human being, as I see that as being the only single pivotal point in this entire process. Everything else is part of a sequence that builds on the prior steps.
As for the religious aspect, I’ll start with a little religious humor, if I may: One day, a Catholic Priest, a Protestant minister, and a Jewish Rabbi were debating the subject of when life begins. Of course, the priest asserted that life begins at conception, and the minister asserted that life begins at birth. The rabbi just sat back with his arms folded in a relaxed manner, grinned and chucked as he said: “Life begins when your youngest child moves out of the house and the dog dies.” This is obviously completely fictitious and not relevant to the subject at hand, but I thought a little humor would help the reader take a breather and prepare for this next section.
It comes as no surprise to me that what my faith teaches aligns well with science, as the Catholic faith believes in and supports science. In fact, we believe science compliments religion in that religion typically explains the “who, what, were, when and why” and science explains “how”. In this case, science explains embryo/fetus development very well. It also illustrates that the entire process starts with conception.
Us Christians of all denominations (I’m actually quite Ecumenical as I grew up Protestant and later converted to Catholicism) are deeply rooted in our beliefs that life is a most sacred gift from God, and that we must do all we can to protect it from intentional harm. Hence, we seem to be in consensus that we need to protect human life; however, we seem to have disparate beliefs regarding exactly when life begins.
Interestingly enough, I will cite a debate I was recently in with one of Islamic faith regarding what the scriptures say. His argument: “Sharia Law comes to Amerika. Pro-life is a hoax, Abortion is not a sin. According to the bible, a fetus is not a living person with a soul until after drawing its first breath. After God formed man in Genesis 2:7, He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and it was then that the man became a living being”. Although the man was fully formed by God in all respects, he was not a living being until after taking his first breath. In Job 33:4, it states: “The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” There is nothing in the bible to indicate that a fetus is considered to be anything other than living tissue and, according to scripture, it does not become a living being until after it has taken a breath.” … “In the end, if abortion was such a grievous sin Jesus would have mentioned it. He said nothing.”
My response: “The bible can be very misleading if we look at only certain parts/snippets. In order to understand it, it must be read from a holistic standpoint with an understanding of the times, culture, and circumstances in which a particular book was written. (The bible is actually an encyclopedia, not just one book.) Bible interpretation mistakes are understandable, as there is often fission within the Christian community due to different interpretations of the bible.
Although what you cited above is semantically correct, there are also other parts that assert that God’s gift of human life starts before birth:
- I knew you even before you were conceived. (Jeremiah 1:4-5)
- I chose you when I planned creation. (Ephesians 1:11-12)
- You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book. (Psalms 71:6)
- I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live. (Acts 17:26)
- You are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalms 139:14)
- I knit you together in your mother’s womb. (Psalms 139:13)
- And brought you forth on the day you were born. (Psalms 71:6)”
I believe this dialogue sums it up well. The bible addresses us as individuals (AKA “Life”) during and after our formation process. It illustrates that God deliberately created us. No human being is an “accident”. So, who are we to undo the work of God? Again, I rest my case.
Meanwhile, I do understand the Jewish and Islam faiths support abortion in that the mother should have the latitude to choose between her life and her baby’s life in situations in which the mother’s life would be at risk should she carry her pregnancy to term. I am actually very much on board with that, and I believe this scenario – albeit far less common – needs to be part of abortion law as an exception to the general law that would otherwise ban abortion in most situations. In fact, the Pentagon has already addressed this and other exceptions as abortion applies to military personnel. Specifically, the Pentagon permits abortion in military personnel in cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life would be endangered by carrying the pregnancy to term.
I suspect this is where the general public gets the most tripped up over the mother’s right to choose. I believe she should indeed have the right the choose her own life, but she should not be permitted to take an innocent life (the unborn) if carrying her pregnancy to term would not significantly jeopardize her own life.
Also, having this clause in there would kill the dreaded “my body, my choice” assertion of the Pro-Abortion movement. I maintain that, except in those uncommon situations, the subject is not the mother’s body. It’s her unborn child that we’re addressing.
The Government’s Role in Controlling Abortion
I strongly believe the underlying intent of our criminal law system at all government levels is to protect us from ourselves and from each other, as well as protect our property from getting stolen or damaged. Hence, a good litmus test regarding the legitimacy of a proposed law would be to ask: “Who/what would this prospective law protect?” In the case of the abortion, I believe the answer is clear: the life of the unborn.
Now, just to illustrate the flip side, I would say a law against contraception, hysterectomies and vasectomies would be a case of the government overstepping its bounds, as there isn’t yet anyone or anything to protect in these situations.
Moreover, I also believe the appropriate government level (federal/state/local) of any law should be based on the lowest level that such law could be properly and effectively administered. For instance, I believe federal income tax and espionage laws clearly need to be held at the federal level since any breech would affect the entire USA/its government, not just one state. Likewise, I believe most traffic laws (speed limits, right turn on red, U-turns, parking etc.) should be held at the state and local levels since the impact is only at these levels. I believe most would agree with me on these two examples.
I also believe abortion falls into the state law category, just as theft, vandalism, bodily assault, etc. typically do and for the same reasons. This is the main basis of my agreement with the recent SCOTUS ruling, in that each state should set its own abortion policy.
Hence, I really don’t appreciate the inflammatory nature of how certain politicians and news media portray SCOTUS’s ruling. It is not a major health crisis, and the sky is not falling. It’s as if these people are trying to provoke more conflict and division. All this SCOTUS ruling does is turn the decision authority over to the states and let them decide on how abortion should be handled – nothing more, nothing less. So, those who don’t like their state’s abortion laws should take it up with their respective state legislatures and let the federal government focus on matters that pertain to the US as a whole, including the economy, inflation, national security, and geopolitical issues.
Considerations In Abortion Legislation
The mother’s life versus the child’s
As I alluded earlier, I believe abortion law doesn’t lend itself to a one-size-fits-all approach. Hence, I believe the disposition should either be on a case-by-case basis (inefficient and not streamlined) or have a general law forbidding abortion except in situations in which the mother’s life would be in jeopardy if she were to carry her pregnancy to term. I can justify this in that, unfortunately, a life is bound to be lost in such situations. Hence, like the Jews and Islam’s believe, I tend to believe the mother has a fundamental right to choose her own life over her baby’s, but only when it comes down to that.
Conversely, in the case of incest and assuming it’s between consenting adults, I still believe abortion should be forbidden because no life would be endangered should the mother proceed to have the baby.
In the case of rape, I see both sides. From an “all about life” perspective, I would lean toward forbidding abortion for the same reason as I would incest between consenting adults. However, I also see a significant mental health risk by forcing a rape victim to have her baby, as I’m sure that would inevitably intensify and prolong the PTSD. Hence, as a whole, I tend to favor letting the mother decide based on the impact to her own well-being and not hold her accountable for someone else’s wrongdoing. However, in such cases, there should be sufficient evidence that her pregnancy is indeed a direct effect of rape.
Many pro-abortion folks are concerned about the quality of the life of the child should a mother be forced to bear it, as all of us should be. Fortunately, there is a great alternative to forcing her to raise a child that she doesn’t want – adoption! There are many, many qualified/vetted parents who are on long wait lists to be matched with a birth mother or infant (yet sadly plenty of older children awaiting adoptive parents). Hence, I view adoption as a win-win for all parties: the mother, the baby, and the adoptive parents. There is still a lot of love in the world and plenty of people who need it. I have always viewed adoption as a great way to help match the demand with the supply! And it goes both ways: Who really rescued who? As an adoptive parent myself, I absolutely know that I am very blessed to have my two (potentially four) adopted sons, and I cannot imagine living the rest of my life without them.
And one last thought, I believe anti-abortion law is actually “Pro-Woman”. I believe one of my favorite women of all times, Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, sums it up the best: “Abortion kills twice. It kills the body of the baby and it kills the conscience of the mother. Abortion is profoundly anti-women. Three quarters of its victims are women: Half the babies and all the mothers.”
And, while I’m quoting Mother Teresa on this subject, I also like: “The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion because if a mother can kill her own child, what is left for me to kill you and you to kill me. There is nothing in between”.